Whiny and Pissy: Ares and Richard Armitage (and me too…)

Whiny and pissy…pretty much sums up my general mood the past week.  It started a week ago Sunday when my sister tried to take some pictures of my kids amidst the fall foliage.  Epic fail.  1. My kids are intermittently rotten.  2.  Given her level of patience, my sister should maybe stick to taking photos of inanimate subjects…they are more cooperative.

The real kicker, the thing that ruined my mood for three straight days, was grading exams for one of my World History intro classes.  There were a number of “A” papers, but there were a whole lot more “D” and “”F” papers.  The most frustrating thing was that the section where people lost huge points was the section that they should have had no problem with if they had bothered to study at all.  I was seriously on the verge of walking into that class and throwing the papers in the air as I announced, “I’m outie!  I doubt you’ll notice I’m gone since you don’t seem to notice much that I say.”  I didn’t of course, but I REALLY wanted to!  I honestly want my students to succeed, and it really troubles me when they won’t even try.  Cue the current mood.

Pissy and Whiny mascots (Pain and Panic from Disney's Hercules) Source

Pissy and Whiny mascots (Pain and Panic from Disney’s Hercules)

Since then, I’ve not had much success kicking the pissy mood and it is a serious buzz kill for some things I want to work on.  Well then, if you can’t beat’em, join’em!  (Maybe it will be cathartic!).

Of the Olympian divinities one emerges as a clear standout when it comes to being pissy and whiny – Ares.   Ares was the offspring of Zeus and Hera, and he was principally associated war. Interestingly, despite the fact that the Ancient Greeks were not exactly peace loving, Ares was nowhere near as important in the Greek pantheon as his counterpart Mars was to the Romans.  Part of this is certainly due to how the Greeks differentiated the nature of warfare.  While Athena, associated with victory (Nike) and the glory that could be achieved through excellence in warfare, was venerated widely, the Greeks were often ambivalent to Ares.  He was recognized as the embodiment of the physical qualities necessary of a warrior, but he was also understood as a dangerous force…representative of the violence and mayhem of warfare.  If that weren’t enough to put people off, his regular traveling companions Fear (Phobos), Terror (Deimos) and Discord (Enyo) would probably complete the transaction.

Ludovisi Ares Source

Ludovisi Ares (Roman Copy of Greek Original by Lysippsos or Skopas)

The story of Ares I remember most comes from Book V of The Iliad.  Ares was tearing through human opponents like a hot knife through butter until he encountered the hero Diomedes (assisted by Athena).  Despite his divine immortality, when Diomedes speared him, Ares immediately ran home to Olympus to tell daddy.  Zeus was somewhat less than totally sympathetic to his pissy and whiny son:

iliad quote

One of Richard Armitage’s pantheon of characters stood out to me as quite reminiscent of Ares in pissiness and whinyness…can you guess?

Somewhat gratuitous skin... Source

Somewhat gratuitous skin…

Yep, Paul Andrews, the character played by Richard Armitage in ITV’s Between the Sheets.  On a first watch it’s easy to blame Paul’s partner Alona for many of his reactions. She *is* a bit dominant in the relationship.  She does question him, she does wonder if any of it could be true.  But even before the ultimate reveal, there is sort of petulant man-child quality about Richard Armitage’s portrayal of Paul that reminds me a lot of Ares.

Paul whines that Alona doesn’t trust him, that she has no faith in him, that she should know that he would *never* do the things he’s been accused of.  (There really should be cheese with all that whine!)  It works…Alona repeatedly puts aside her misgivings and tries repeatedly to fix their relationship.  It’s a credit to Armitage that even with the all the Ares-like whining and pissiness, I was not convinced until the very end that Paul wasn’t a sympathetic character.  Well done with the whining sir!

You know, I think this little foray has cleared me of some of my own whiny pissiness…the test will be class tomorrow afternoon!

Pathos Personified: The Dying Gaul and a Panoply of Richard Armitage Characters

Welcome to another installment of the  Ancient Armitage tour through some of my favorite pieces of Greco-Roman art.  I’ve made no secret about having a certain preference for the art of the Hellenistic period, so I doubt anyone will be shocked when I reveal that another of my faves belongs to that period.

"The Dying Gaul" 2nd cent AD Roman copy of 3Rd cent BC original Source

“The Dying Gaul”
2nd cent AD Roman copy of 3Rd cent BC original

This Roman copy in marble is modeled after an original Greek piece, probably cast in bronze, that was commissioned for the king of Pergamon to commemorate his victory over neighboring Galatia – populated by Celtic or Gaulish peoples.   The sculpture depicts a mortally wounded Gallic warrior, identified by his mustache and torc, as he lies, slumping down among his weapons.  If we look closely, we can see the mortal sword wound just under his right pectoral.



Unlike similarly themed works from the 6th and 5th centuries BC, the severity of his wound is evident in his posture and expression.  The viewer can almost feel the valiant effort the wounded warrior is exerting to stay upright as the weight of his pain bears him down.  While the ancient Greeks were exceptionally good at trash talking their enemies (cf Herodotus’ The Histories where the author goes to some length to describe the surpassing oddity of most things Persian) they are also exceptionally skilled at depicting the enemy as noble and strong, even in defeat.  Makes sense…after all, it wouldn’t be much of a victory if the enemy were ignoble and weak specimens.

Hellenistic art is often emotionally evocative, and the pathos of this piece is particularly striking to me.  In Greek, πάθος in general terms means “that which happens to a person or a thing,” and it also takes on a more specific connotation of suffering or misfortune.  The Dying Gaul’s suffering and misfortune is clear from the heavy, slumping position of his body and is further enhanced by his expressive face.

A portrait of pathos..

A portrait of pathos..

The bowed head with it’s furrowed brow, pensive eyes and slightly open mouth present a fallen warrior determined to endure his suffering stoically, but unable to wipe all trace of it from his features.

Pathos is also an interesting word in the sense that it comes into contemporary English usage as an element of communication.  As originally articulated by Aristotle in Rhetoric, pathos is a device used to appeal to an audience’s emotions.  Richard Armitage is quite adept at playing with this quality in any number of his characterizations by means of a variety of verbal cues, but like The Dying Gaul, he is also able to tap into the power of pathos through purely visual means…

Whether it’s Guy of Gisborne’s excruciating interchanges with Marian or the Sheriff,

guy pathos 2

Guy of Gisborne – S2 Source

Paul Andrews desperately trying to keep his secret


Between the Sheets Source

John Thornton facing financial ruin,

North and South - E4 Source

North and South – E4

Lucas North’s anguish in the face of all that he’s lost


Spooks S7 E2 Source

John Porter’s grief

Strikeback S1 E6 Source

Strikeback S1 E6

or the heavy burden of Thorin’s duty,

The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey Source

The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey

the ability to visually evoke the powerfully emotive qualities of pathos is something that Richard Armitage and The Dying Gaul share.


PS…I would remiss if I did not share the following gratuitous rear view:


I’ve said it before: if the whole acting thing doesn’t work out….sculpture model?